Singapore Ministers Pay, Legitimised Corruption
- Singapore Ministers Pay, Legitimised Corruption
With the extended downturn in the recession we see large banks falling, accompanied with salary cuts and retrenchments in the private sector.
One looming question is whether the pay of Singapore's Million Dollar ministers (which are supposed to be pegged to private sector salaries of top income earners) will also see a 50-70% pay-cut?
We think not and circulate an old article which discusses this issue
Singapore Ministers Pay, Legitimised Corruption
Singapore Review, 2 May 2003 (updated May 2005)
By Mellanie Hewlitt
The headlines blared loudly in the 2 May 2003 issues of the Straits Times and Business Times "Pay cut? Ministers ready to lead by example: DPM", announcing to the entire world this selfless act of leadership by Singapore's Ruling Elite.
In what appeared to be an initial move to reduce severely inflated salaries, to more reasonable industry standards, Singapore's Ruling Elite have bowed to public pressure and hinted at accepting a pay cut.
Or have they?
What exactly does "Leading By Example" mean? Lets try to put some substance behind those brave words. As of last count, average take home pay of a Singapore minister was well in excess of SGD100,000/- a month.
The below table puts things back in proper perspective: (these are basic figures as of July 2000 and did not include last year's pay hikes or other benefits. Otherwise the updated numbers may well be much larger)
1. Singapore President's Basic Salary US$1,483,000 (SGD$2,373,100)*a year
Singapore Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to SGD1,458,040) a year
2. United States of America President: US$200,000 Vice President: US$181,400 Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000
3. United Kingdom Prime Minister: US$170,556 Ministers: US$146,299 Senior Civil Servants: US$262,438
4. Australia Prime Minister: US$137,060 Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439 Treasurer: US$102,682
5. Hong Kong Chief Executive : US$416,615 Top Civil Servant: US$278,538 Financial Sec: US$315,077
Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000 *Singapore President's salary which was updated in 2005 from the Singapore Straits Times
In relative terms, less then 20% of Singaporeans here have take home salaries
exceeding SGD100,000/- A YEAR.
In stark contrast, BASIC SALARY FOR A MINISTER STARTS AT SGD1,166,844 A YEAR,OR JUST UNDER SGD100,000 A MONTH.
What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE HOME
salary of 80% of Singapore's income earning population. Lets not even begin to compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million easily.
With the above numbers and figures now in perspective, it is easier to give substance to the words "leading by example". Several facts are noteworthy here;
a) That the ministerial salaries are grossly out of proportion, even when compared with their counterparts in much larger countries (US and UK) who have far heavier responsibilities.
b) That these salary reductions were long overdue. In the past, such handsome remuneration were "justified" on the back of resounding performance. However, Singapore's economy has been in the doldrums of a recession for several years now (with beginnings reaching as far back as the 1997 Asian economic crisis). This economic barometer is a rough measure of performance and implies that ministerial salaries were due for review at least 3-4 years ago.
c) That adjustments should be made to bring them back within the industry benchmarks. Taking the salary of US vice president as a rule of thumb, the percentage for reductions should start at 50% of current pay. Even if a Singapore minister takes a 50% pay-cut, he would still be earning much more then the US vice president.
d) The percentage reductions should greater then 50% if the intent is to bring the salaries within the perspective of Singapore's domestic scene.
With such inflated figures, it is understandable why the local government controlled media (Singapore Press Holdings) have taken pains to exclude mention of actual numbers for the world to see. The numbers would be too glaring and no amount of window dressing or creative writing could have reconciled these numbers with a sane figure and restored credibility.
Also relevant is the question whether such highly paid million dollar ministers can ever relate to the plight of the average man on the street. The remarks of Mrs Goh Chok Tong, that a SGD600,000/- per annum salary (of NKF CEO) is PEANUTS, is a harsh reflection of the real mind-sets, priorities and values of Singapore's million dollar ministers. And it is these same million dollar elitist bureucrats who will shape and determine public policies which will touch on the daily lifelihoods of every Singaporean.
It is unlikely that Singapore's Ruling Elite will accept such huge salary cuts. Exactly How much and when the ministerial pay-cuts takes effect is not revealed. Ask any man on the street and 9 out of 10 responses indicate many agree the current ministerial salaries are grossly inflated, especially in these lean and difficult times.
Said a long time forumer from an internet political chat group:
"First of all the Ministers are NOT leading on pay cut. Workers' salaries have been drastically reduced since the beginning of the recession while thousands have been unemployed. so the Ministers are NOT LEADING. they are only CATCHING UP. And they have several decades to catch up on."
"Secondly, how much of a pay cut will Ministers take? 10%? 20%? unless its a cut that will affect their lifestyles, it is merely symbolic and they would still not know what it feels like to be a normal worker. as such, this is not Leading by Example. Its just another bogus political propaganda stunt"
A 29 yr old executive who requested to remain anonymous admitted sheepishly ; "The numbers (ministerial salaries) are a national embarrassment really, because it reflects the underlying materialistic value systems of Singapore Ministers. No matter how you look at it, the fact remains that our ministers are money faced, and these are supposed to be Singapore's leaders, with value systems that Singaporeans should follow." "It (the ministerial salaries) puts Singapore in a bad light in the eyes of the world. The rest of Singaporeans really put in an honest days work for every penny they earn. And the process for review and approval of the ministerial salaries is also a joke. Imagine sitting on the board and approving (on White Paper)your own salary increments! Its all a wayang show".
This also raises the question as to the authenticity of the actual process for review and approval of cabinet minister's salaries. Who decides on these numbers? Is there independence and transparency?
Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2002 challenged Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they understand the economic hardships faced by the public. And the over-riding concern is that Singapore's Ruling Elite are unable to appreciate the economic hardship that the masses face in these tough times.
The growing public resentment comes afew months after PM Goh's careless comments that "lay-offs were not all bad", drew a backlash from the public with a flood of e-mails being sent to the foreign press to register public indignation.
It is a revelation that when the "paycuts" were finally effected they amounted to a miniscule 10% haircut from the massively bloated ministerial salaries.
It is also a revelation that barely a year later (in June 2004) the bloated ministerial salaries were restored and increased beyond their original levels even as the rest of Singapore was still struggling in the throes of a recession. (There were no CPF restorations for the rest of working Singaporeans).
Source Sg_Review group
Singapore Review welcomes honest feedback on this hotly debated topic. You can Send your comments to the editor: sg_Review@yahoogroups.com
From: Julie Rogers
To: Singapore Review
27 October 2004
Does Inequality Make You Sick? S'pore ministers salaries
Hi, I pondered over Catherine Lim's article "PAP and the people: A return of
Until recently I knew next to nothing about Singapore so it is a revelation
that my first introduction to this little speck is through various discussions
on the internet about Ministerial Salaries.
Quite frankly I am rather appalled by the fact that ministers in your country
can earn upwards of USD 1 million. Any officer of the state is a
public servant and this was a once noble and honourable calling. In the
civilised world, persons assume this office because they want personally to
contribute to the well being of the country. Self sacrifice and altruism are
essential hallmarks for a public office holder and the minister must be ready
and willing to make these personal sacrifices.
If the heart is not in this noble service, then it will be wasted effort.
Money should not be an issue at all and if it is, then your "elected leaders"
have very ill-placed priorities and are obviously in it for the wrong reasons.
Even if we were to overlook the misplaced financial motives of your ministers,
the sheer gulf in income disparity between ministerial salaries and those of
the working class will create a huge irreconcilable dichord and disenchantment
with any normal voting public. (A valid point in Catherine Lim's article)
But I am told that Singapore is a democracy with elected leaders! So I have to
assume that Singapore must have a very unique "voting public" which is able to
silently and willingly take all this in their stride. Singaporeans should take
note here that Who they vote for and who they elect is a reflection of their
own core value systems and the undeniable fact remains that Singaporeans have
elected a group of Leaders who are eminently pre-occupied with escalating their
I for one will never be able to accept this unequal state of affairs if ever it
was my lot. And thank goodness it isn't for I will never be able to sleep
soundly at nights knowing that the fate, future and well being of my country
are in the hands of a bunch of financially motivated hired mercenaries.
Below is a further write-up of some of the social ills that a huge income
disparity can create. There is an old saying that the most efficient form of
governance is a Monarchy, but this assumes the Monarch has the same priorities
and agenda as the people he rules. Is this the case with Singapore's Monarchy?
I repeat that who you elect is a mirror image of your own core values and
Singaporeans have to ask themselves whether their current leaders who require
million dollar salaries to be in office, have the same value systems as the
voters who elected them.
Lastly, I have also copied in Guniess World of Records to see if this unique
feature of your country will earn it a place in the world record books.
22 Feb 2005
Million Dollar Mini$terial $alaries - The Rea$on$ Again?
In light of the recent Singapore Budget 2005, we recirculate below discussions
as a comparison to how much singapore's million dollar ministers have
"contributed" to the country.
a) Is there a budget for Singapore's million dollar ministers?
b) Is there accountability and transparency?
c) Who authorises ministerial pay increments and are these approving authorities
once removed from duress and influence?
d) How are these increments justified?
e) If these salaries are performance based how do you measure the performance of
a million dollar minister?
f) Does the general public and voting citizens feel these million dollar
salaries are justified?
g) Where is the dividing line between legitimised corruption and legitimate
million dollar salaries?
h) Do these million dollar ministers have values which represent those of the
The list of questions is endless but there are still no convincing answers.
Read on and decide for yourselves.
LEGTIMISED CORRUPTION SINGAPORE STYLED. Can't get your bribes? No problem just pass a bill and make it legal!!! Approve your own bonuses and salaries!!!
Forum: the Sammyboy.com's Alfresco Coffee Shop ?Forum
Subject: Truly Out of dis World Salary for Nathan
DateTime: 25/01/2005 19:24:40
At least we now have some exact figures of what our good for nothing
President -perhaps has done nothing good President - is paid to just
make frequent trips overseas for no tangible benefits at the ADDITIONAL
expense of the taxpayers.
Since Nathan is over the civil service retirement age of 55, and having
been a civil servant for his entire working life until being given a
cushy job at SPH, he must be drawing additional pension IN ADDITION to
his President salary.
Boy this must be the best paid Head of State, other than a monarchy, in
the Whole World by several times - President Bush as Head of State and
Head of Government is paid a mere US$400,000, compared to Nathan's
$2,373,100 which is equivalent to US$1,455,889 @ an exchange rate of
US$1 = S$1.63, EXCLUDING his pension.
Nathan's OUT OF THIS WORLD's salary should be seen in the context of
Singapore's GDP of around US$95 Billion as against US GDP of around
US$11 TRILLION, which is more than 115 TIMES larger than S'pore.
Also China's President - who is both Head of State and Head of
Government - starting salary is only S$265 per month or $3180 per year
for running an economy with a GDP in purchasing power terms of nearly
US$6 TRILLION, which is 63 TIMES Singapore's GDP and this would make
Nathan being paid 47014 TIMES the Chinese President's salary on a per
Jan 26, 2005
House approves increase in President's salary
PARLIAMENT approved an increase in the President's salary and other
changes to the Civil List, which specifies his allowances and
expenditure on the Istana and personal staff, for the fiscal year 2004.
The salary will be revised to $2,373,100, an increase of $247,100 from
the estimated fiscal year 2004 expenditure.
As such, the total expenditure under Class 1 of the Civil List - which
includes the President's salary, entertainment allowance and Acting
President's allowance - will now be $2,492,700.
Minister of State (Finance) Lim Hwee Hua, who outlined the changes, said
the increase was 'in view of the restoration of the cuts in the
President's salary and higher projected bonuses'.
An increase in the expenditure under Class 2 of the list, which is for
payment of staff salaries and other staff- related expenses, was also
The additional $48,800 here will go towards the 'higher than anticipated
salary payments', resulting in a total of $2,425,100 being paid to
Istana employees in fiscal year 2004, which runs from April 2004 to the
end of March this year.
Under Class 3 payments, which is for the maintenance of the Istana,
vehicles, utilities and other supplies, $38,000 from the estimated
figure has been shaved off due to savings on these items, bringing the
expenditure on household expenses down to $903,600.
The Class 4 expenditure, to do with the purchase of special services
such as cars and office equipment, was raised by $15,500, bringing the
total amount to $27,000.
The additional funds are for the purchase of a computer server